The Eight Steps for Volunteer Success

  1. Choose something you care about
    Do you like animals? Reading? History? Sports? Choosing the right field will help you connect with an organization that will welcome your help and enthusiasm.
  2. Know what you can do
    Do you have office skills, or a nice telephone voice? Perhaps you can play an instrument or use sign language. Maybe you have a lifetime of work experience that you could exercise as a mentor. Working with your existing skills will help to boost your initial confidence.
  3. Know what you want
    Avoid feelings of frustration by choosing volunteer opportunities that offer personal rewards. If you keep saying you need to lose weight, find a job that will get you outdoors and moving. If your life is in a rut, try choosing a completely new field to explore-but expect to invest more time in learning new skills.
  4. "Virtually" volunteer
    There are an increasing number of opportunities for people with computer access. This can be good option for people with limited mobility or other reasons for staying home. And many people find it easier to volunteer at "odd" hours.
  5. Don't be offended
    So don't be surprised or offended if you're asked to come in for an interview, fill out an application, or answer some very personal questions. For example, public schools generally require a criminal background check—even for parents helping with field trips. Some groups also require an orientation or training session before you start—even if you have years of experience.
  6. Prevent burnout
    Don't commit more than you can realistically give. Decide in advance how much time you're willing to give. If you aren't sure, aim low. You can always add hours to your schedule later on.
  7. Keep your promises
    Schedule your volunteer time at least a week in advance—and don't cancel on short notice, or simply fail to show. Show the same reliability in your volunteer work that you would give to any other employer. This is the key to maintaining a mutually respectful and rewarding relationship.
  8. Dress for the job
    If you're painting houses or cleaning campgrounds, go ahead and wear grubby clothes. But if you're working at a front desk, keep a professional appearance.


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